Rory McIlroy has been warned not to expect any miracles as he attempts to win the Masters and become a “legend” of the game.
McIlroy needs a victory at Augusta National to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having claimed all four major titles, but is without a win since November 2019 and has slipped to 12th in the world rankings.
The 31-year-old has recently started consulting renowned coach Pete Cowen on a formal basis after making the startling admission that he had damaged his swing by trying to add more length to his game, partly influenced by Bryson DeChambeau’s victory in last year’s US Open.
Ian Poulter (foreground) beat Rory McIlroy 6&5 in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (David J Phillip/AP)
But Cowen is not promising any quick fixes after McIlroy shot 79, 75 to miss the cut in defence of his Players Championship title and was thrashed 6&5 by Ian Poulter in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“It’s a seventh attempt at the grand slam, it’s a massive story,” three-time European Tour winner and Sky Sports Golf expert Nick Dougherty said.
“Rory, with four majors, is world class, one of the greats of the modern-day game. Fifty years from now he wouldn’t be a legend. If he gets on that list, he’s a legend and we’ll be talking about his name way beyond our lifetimes.
“I think his biggest asset this year is that the burden of expectation is far less. I spoke to Pete Cowen about this and he did say don’t expect any miracles, so it’s an ongoing process and again I think that helps.
England’s Nick Dougherty in action during the Celtic Manor Wales Open in 2010 (David Davies/PA)
“There’s no magic powder that’s been sprinkled on top of his golf ball to go to Augusta National.
“But he’s going in there under the radar with a little something and optimistic about the future and the reason Rory’s going to get back is because they have a long-term plan.”
In contrast to McIlroy, Lee Westwood comes into the week on the back of runners-up finishes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship and Dougherty believes the 47-year-old is capable of finally winning a first major title.
Lee Westwood is seeking a first major title at the age of 47 (Jane Barlow/PA)
“He’s had the most rounds inside the top 10 in the Masters since 2008, 21 of them; second is Tiger Woods with 18,” Dougherty added.
“He’s found comfort at that golf course. I think Westwood has the game, he has the mindset now that he plays without consequence because it just doesn’t mean what it used to mean to him and that makes him dangerous.”
The oldest winner of the Masters is Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won the last of his 18 major titles in 1986 with his son Jackie on his bag. Westwood’s son Sam is on caddie duty this week.
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